Aug. 27, 2019 Compassion

Compassion- The deep feeling of sharing the suffering of another in the inclination to give aid or support, or to show mercy.        American Heritage Dictionary

One of the things I first notice about the word compassion is that it links an emotion with a specific action that is of giving aid. Compassionate I have witnessed often appear to blur the line between seeing or hearing the hurt and suffering of another and moving to act. Your inner accountant doesn’t hold a meeting with your heart to consider if you can afford it. Your self-preservation instincts seem distracted and you are free to place yourself in harms to rescue or protect another. Your social director is also distracted if you are helping someone that is considered by some to be best left to their own predicament or station in life.

In my own life compassion is at the heart of what I believe is true religion because I believe it is at the heart of God. It is at the center of what I understand what it is that we do in worship. The author Kathleen Norris is helpful to me. She says:

 God will find a way to let us know that he is with us in this place, wherever we are however far we think we have run. And maybe  that’s one reason we worship—to respond to grace. We praise God not to celebrate our own faith but to give thanks for the faith God has in us. To let ourselves look at God, and let God look back at us. And to laugh, and sing, and be delighted because God has called us his own. - Amazing Grace; Grace.

Compassion is a response to God’s grace. It is pictured throughout our stories in sacred scripture. In this picture of Isaiah calling Israel to remembrance that it is in response to their showing compassion and mercy God will repair the breaches and establish the people of God as a foundation for the future. It is pictured in this gospel story of Jesus healing this long suffering woman on the Sabbath in the synagogue.

The world is too often graceless and seems often to lack compassion. It is a place where if try be compassionate, we fear we can be exhausted by the need. Often that fear can make us feel ineffective in any efforts we make, thinking that they are meaningless in the face of human need. Our minds tells that we cannot do any more than we are already doing. After all how can one person make a difference? Perhaps we ourselves find ourselves suffering from circumstances, maybe an illness or broken relationships and wonder where there might be grace and compassion for us. 

So this morning I remind you as I remind myself that we are here to worship. We are here as Kathleen Norris said to “…praise God not to celebrate our own faith, but give thanks for the faith God has in us.” We do that be recognizing faith as a verb not as a noun. Faith has us, we don’t have faith. It can’t be kept in a bottle it is to spread out so that it grows and fosters more faith. And believe me we can use more faith. Because God seems to have a lot of faith in us. It is evident in the way the Spirit tugs at the hearts of the faithful in this place. There is vision for new acts of mercy and compassion in every corner.  And mercy and compassion come with a cost to treasure and time that is embraced here with enthusiasm.

We could be overwhelmed, yet somehow we are still here. For me we are still here because of God’s faith in us. We are healers of the breeches in the world around us and folks who dare to be interrupted and challenged by God. We are to be the light of compassion in an often dark seemingly uncompassionate world. We are after all those in who God has placed faith.

If we are paying attention to the Gospels, we quickly discern that it is always about God having faith in God’s people. The stories we have of the disciples show a group of folks that it might be difficult to show faith in. From instances of not getting the stories of Jesus or the significance of the miracles, constant squabbling for authority and on and on. All show the disciples pressing Jesus for certainty. Can I sit at your right hand? I left everything what I am going to get? Yet his sudden death followed by the coming of the Holy Spirit especially told by Luke in his Gospel and the Book of Acts show that the faith that God had in them not only came alive, but flourished.

The Late Bonnell Spencer, a monk in the Order of The Holy Cross is purported to be the one who lobbied strongly for the inclusion of the questions that follow the creedal portion of the renewal of our baptismal vows. Those statements that flesh out what we say that we believe about what makes up the contents of the faith God has in in us.   

Our Bishop is calling us to a time of prayer that is around the contents of the faith that God has in us in mid-September. She correctly notes that they are all about mission.

             Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?  

Bishop Susan notes “As disciples, we draw ever closer to Christ, by sitting at his feet and learning; by worshiping and learning to pray; by growing in the ministry of reconciliation; and by learning to love God and love our neighbor.”

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? I will, with God’s help.

She further emphasizes “As evangelists, we share the good news of God’s love for this world that we have come to know as disciples of the risen Christ. We come to know our neighbors and our communities; we listen to their stories; and we share our own experience of God’s reconciling, life-transforming love.”

            Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? I will, with God’s help.

Our Bishop reminds us “As servants, we recognize that love is not a feeling, but an action. We emulate the self-sacrificing love of Jesus by serving our neighbors, our communities, and the world.”

These capstones of the faith God has in us will shape our common effort as a diocesan family as anchored in our present we look to the future. They will also shape Christ’s church as we seek a Rector to go with us where the exciting directions our faith we lead us here in this place. So let us pray as our Bishops asks those words of Ephesians:

            Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20, 21

8/25/2019 - Proper 16 Year C  - Reverend Mac Collins